B.C.’s ambulance paramedics enter 11th hour contract talks

HEU members advised to “stand ready” to support job action

B.C.’s 3,500 ambulance paramedics are at the bargaining table this week in an 11th hour effort to negotiate a new collective agreement.

And while the union is hopeful a deal can be reached, CUPE Local 873 president John Strohmaier tells HEU members in an open letter that there are many legal job action options open to the union within the framework of essential services legislation.

Last year, the paramedics launched a series of job actions that caused administrative headaches for their managers while preserving services to the public. And HEU locals around the province participated in a high profile post card campaign designed to focus politicians’ attention on the serious problems facing B.C.’s once proud ambulance service.

CUPE Local 873 has been meeting with HEU and other health care unions to coordinate future job actions. HEU locals are advised to stay in touch with their staff representatives for updates.

“HEU members should stand ready to once again assist our sisters and brothers in CUPE Local 873,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“These union members have always supported HEU members when we’ve been forced to take action against the employer. They can continue to expect the same solidarity from our union in their efforts to win a fair settlement from the B.C. government.”

The main issues at the bargaining table are:

  • a 35-hour work week (about what paramedics are paid for even though most work many more unpaid hours);
  • action on stressful working conditions;
  • a fair wage increase (average take home pay has increased by only fifty dollars in the last eight years); and
  • replacement of annual examinations with the ongoing education standard in other health professions.

In his letter, Strohmaier thanks HEU members for their ongoing solidarity. “Your support at rallies and other events throughout the province since last May has been much appreciated by the 3,500 ambulance paramedics who work shoulder to shoulder with you every day.”